A Guide to Every Type of Public Transport


Tourism specialisation

I love Cities: Skylines’ public transport. Especially how satisfying it is to link up different types.

Good public transit is vital for the health of most cities. Use the right mix and you can make extremely efficient systems that keep most private cars off the roads.

Here I’ll quickly look at each type of public transport, its general strengths and weaknesses and how it fits into the bigger picture.

I’ve tried to keep this article short, but I’m planning a more detailed and in-depth version. I’ll link to it from here. I’ve only covered internal lines so I’ve left out airports and harbours. My tourism guide talks about those though.

Compatibility: I’m talking about the vanilla unmodded game with all the expansions installed, so the stuff in this guide applies across PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox, PS4 and Switch versions.

The optimal way isn’t the only way

There’s definitely an ‘optimal’ way of doing this and if you’re going for a huge city or just the highest Traffic flow % you might want to do it that way but it’s definitely not a requirement. Personally, I usually have the most fun when I’m building around something that isn’t the obvious way of doing it and gives an area a bit of character.

Think about your public transport as a hierarchy

Public transport hierarchy

In the best systems, people move up and down the hierarchy. So you could have walk > bus > train > bus > walk. It’s probably not the perfect analogy but you can think of it like a tree. Fast, high-capacity systems are the trunk and people use increasingly localised forms of transit to get to and from their destination.

Short, medium, long and niche

I’ve organised each transport type in broad categories. These aren’t set in stone at all but it helps to build a system that works by choosing the right mix.

The main difference, really, is the capacity and throughput of each type. The reason it’s hard to use blimps on your main commuter lines is that they just don’t move enough people fast enough to cope and your stops will get swamped.

So even for the quirkiest systems it’s good to have a sense of capacity and make sure each step in the chain can handle the demand.

Short distance public transit


The humble bus. It unlocks early and although it’s the backbone of early transit networks, it stays important throughout. It carries 30 people and is great for getting them from home to their middle and long distance travel connections.

Bus stops are best opposite each other at regular intervals. Avoid putting too many bus lines through the same stops or queueing buses will create jams. In bus-heavy cities use the Bus Station to ease that pressure.

Rather than giant circuitous routes, try to keep them quite direct so cims can get where they’re going quickly instead of going round forever (if it’s too long, they’ll drive). Then either organise lines with turning circles at either end or make two contract-rotating lines.

It’s easy to turn a profit with buses since they’re cheap to run and your fixed cost is the depot. Each new line reduces the depot cost per bus. The biofuel versions that arrived in the Green Cities DLC are basically the same but make less noise so are better for residential areas.


Public transport: Tram outside the amusement park

Arriving in the Snowfall DLC, trams are among my favourite things in the game. They’re also really good. They’re similar to buses and the same principles apply, but they’ve got a few advantages.

Each tram can carry 90 people instead of 30 and as well as running along upgraded roads, you can lay tram-only tracks. That opens up options to create your own tram stations and shortcuts that make trams a much faster option than driving. They also look and sounds great, so there’s that.

Trams bridge the gap nicely between buses and metros. They’re really good for busier areas like loops of your commercial centre, where buses can get overwhelmed.

The tram depot can also handle your whole city’s needs, but each new line must be physically connected to the depot via lines. They’re a lot more expensive than buses but cheaper than bigger systems, so a good choice in the right circumstances.


Footbridge through high density

In any public transport system people walk during the journey: from home to the bus stop, from there to the train, etc. But you can also turn walking into a serious form of local transport.

People seem to be willing to walk further on paths than pavements, and will even take a path if the route is longer. Getting people onto paths keeps them out of cars (also out of your public transport, so that’s worth planning for).

As well as creating paths between roads, you can create whole networks of bridges and underpasses that cut right across neighbourhoods. Done right, you don’t even need a bus or tram line around your suburbs: people will just walk to the nearest medium distance station.

I’ve written about how to add crosswalks and how to use footpaths to reduce traffic.

Medium distance public transit


The metro is probably the best form of transport in the game. It’s got high capacity and is pretty fast, and by going underground your lines can be very direct, making travelling by metro an easy choice for residents.

Ideally, don’t run multiple lines into single stations to avoid traffic jams. Instead, build stations next to each other (oh, how I long for a vanilla multi-platform metro hub) and people will gladly walk from one to the other. If you can, make your main line a complete loop so all stations can use both platforms at the same time.

The metro is quite expensive but once you get close to capacity you can turn a reasonable profit. Its speed means it can do the heavy lifting for the entire city, replacing almost all other types if you want it to. The only downside is perhaps how awkward tunnels are to place on steep hills and under water.


Monorail through the city

The monorail is my personal favourite. It’s like an overground metro: the trains have the same 180 capacity and travel at a similar speed. As the metro can’t go above ground, so the monorail can’t go below. 

The metro is often the better choice for big cities, but many times I use the monorail instead - it’s just so swooshy and futuristic and I love the clinking noise the trains make. Almost all my cities have a monorail going on somewhere.

Occasionally, the monorail is the clear choice over metro, though. That includes when you need to pass rivers or ravines, where you’d need difficult or even impossible changes in elevation to traverse it with a metro line. The reverse is true of going over big hills, of course. [Thanks Glitcher for suggesting I even the scales between the mono and metro a bit].

If you can, run them in loops, so only stations can use both platforms, although that’s a bit harder than with the metro. Stations are pretty noisy but what really elevates the monorail (totally unintended pun. I’m rolling with it) is the ability to run its rails right over your existing two- and four-lane roads.

That makes it space-efficient and much faster than buses and trams travelling the same routes, making it a sensible upgrade for parts of the city which are overwhelmed by passenger numbers.


Bike and cycle highway

Biking, done properly, can be a really good medium-distance form of travel. Give them good routes and cims will travel miles and miles.

Adding bike lanes to your roads is good, but where cycling really shines is when you build bike highways throughout the city. Make main, direct routes and connect them to each of your districts and you’ll find hundreds of people suddenly choosing to ride to work.

Bike highways also keep cyclists off the roads, improving speeds for everyone by avoiding them crossing junctions. They’re incredibly effective but the game doesn’t really push you in their direction.

I’ve written a guide to biking superhighways.

Long distance


Separated train lines

Trains are fast, high-capacity and shine for long distance travel. Give them long stretches of fairly straight track and they’ll fly past even highway traffic. They are excellent for long distances - think connecting up smaller towns that are 2-3 map tiles apart.

You can use them for medium-distance travel, too, but they’re less efficient if they don’t have time to get up to full speed. They’re also very expensive to maintain so for most routes you’d be better off with metro or monorail unless you’re just doing it for fun. The stations are also really loud.

The multiplatform stations added in the Mass Transit DLC are a steal. They cost a bit more upfront but you get a metro station included (which evens out the price) and 6 trains for the same maintenance cost as the basic station. If you’ve got the space, use them instead.

Tourists come in by train, and cargo can move around on rails as well. It’s best to keep all three (those two, plus internal) lines separate, or you’ll run into jams as the city grows. To save money, just leave the space until you need them.

Niche public transit


It feels a bit harsh putting ferries in the niche category. I really like them and they add a ton visually to a city - especially one with plenty of water and wide rivers, but they’re just not quite there.

Place a depot and draw routes between any of the three types of stops. The bigger options can handle two ferries docking at once. They can travel up canals and the smallest stop will fit on a canal wall, opening up small ferry-based neighbourhoods.

The problem ferries have is their throughput. Their capacity of 50 is fine but they move and dock slowly, which really limits how useful they are on super-busy lines. That said, they’re great for lower-demand routes. The stops cost hardly anything to maintain, so you could just fill the waterways with ferries to make it work.


I love blimps. They add a ton of character to the city and are a nice addition to the skyline. I also really like the design of the blimps themselves.

On the face of it, blimps are pretty handy. Unconstrained by difficult terrain, water, huge unique buildings, massive highways or anything else, your blimps can go directly where they’re going.

The problem is their capacity (35) or rather, their throughput. It takes so long for a blimp to land, take on passengers and take off again that they have a pretty hard cap on the number of people they can move. They’re also pretty slow. That makes them only useful on low-ish demand routes.

Which isn’t the same as being useless, obviously! They’re great but… niche. Hence being here.

Cable car

Cable cars to nature reserve

Cable cars can straddle waterways, vault over mountains and ignore otherwise difficult terrain much like blimps.

Once you connect two stations cars begin travelling automatically. You don’t set lines but you also can’t control car numbers. That puts a pretty hard cap on passenger throughput although each car carries 30 and they go pretty regularly so it’s actually fairly decent on that front.

I normally use cable cars to carry people to the top of a hill to reach a nature reserve or something like that.

But I think they’d also look great as a bus and tram alternative for travel through a hillside suburb. They’re expensive and even at full capacity don’t seem to turn a profit, which is why I think they’re niche. You generally need to choose them for fun over something more efficient.


The taxi service is a bit of an oddity, but still worth mentioning. It’s kind of autonomous: you put down a depot which can supply 25 taxis, then put stops wherever you want them. Taxis drive around town, collecting tourists and residents and taking them where they’re going.

If they’ve got no fare, taxis return to ranks or the depot - which is why it’s worth putting the ranks near where you need them to stop them spending ages driving back and forth.

Taxis, apparently, encourage tourists to stay longer in the city and spend more, but I don’t know how that works - or if it does at all. The other problems with taxis is you need huge fleets to turn a profit and they put traffic back on the roads. I only use them for aesthetics.

Public transport Roundup

I hope this helps! For me, Cities: Skylines is at its best when it’s letting you get really creative about how you move people around. Finding fun public transport combinations and designing neighbourhoods around unusual modes is really satisfying.

Although I’ve categorised each type here, there’s plenty of flexibility in what you choose to use. Loads of things will work - especially if you aren’t aiming for a profit. The main limitation and the most important thing to point out is that busy commuter routes will eventually overwhelm the low-throughput transport types.

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